Like eggnog that has been sitting out for too long, some Christmas movies seem great when you first see them, but then they go sour with age. But there’s another type of Christmas movie that is more like fine wine: underappreciated when you first see it, but as time passes it ends up becoming a cherished classic. To celebrate the holiday season, here is our official list of the top ten holiday movies that get better with age.
For this list, we will celebrate two types of holiday movies: films that were positively received and have only received more acclaim with time, and films that were underrated but have ended up becoming holiday classics. Most of the films on this list will end up in the latter category.
10. Love Actually (2003)
Richard Roeper, the late Roger Ebert’s companion on Ebert & Roeper, called Love Actually a terrific film, and one that was destined to become a classic among holiday movies. However, not all critics viewed Love Actually in the same light. One critic went as far as to call it the least romantic film of all time. But despite its mixed reviews, this collection of interconnected stories dealing with the subject of romance and love during the holiday season has indeed become a Christmas classic among fans. It appears that Roeper’s opinion has stood the test of time.
9. Last Holiday (2006)
Queen Latifah stars as a woman working in a department store dreaming of cooking professionally. After bumping her head she goes to the hospital where she is diagnosed with a rare brain condition that will take her life in three weeks. While it’s difficult news to hear, she chooses to quit her job and spend her final weeks in Europe making her final days a blast. While Last Holiday tanked at the box office and received mixed reviews, Queen Latifah was praised for her charm and humor. The film stands the test of time as a reminder to live life to the fullest.
8. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
It’s a little up in the air whether or not this is a Christmas or Halloween film, which I really don’t understand since it’s only Halloween for the first ten minutes. Regardless of where you stand, this film remains a cult classic despite the fact that some critics found the story weak and forgettable.
Jack Skellington gets bored with the year-long routine of preparing for Halloween, and then he discovers Christmas and decides he wants to take over the holiday for a year and make it better. However, things go haywire in a variety of ways. While the film is a little short and rushed, its unique animation style and memorable songs make it a holiday favorite, particularly for us late 80’s and early 90’s kids. Inspiring video games and comic books, The Nightmare Before Christmas is anything but weak and forgettable. It’s a spooky and unconventional holiday classic.
7 Home Alone 2: Lost In New York
One of the funniest holiday movies of all time, the first Home Alone was a critical and box office success and that made Macaulay Culkin a star. The second film was also a box office success, but it was a critical flop.
Many found the film to be much darker and overly violent than its predecessor. That isn’t entirely unreasonable considering that most of Kevin’s traps for Harry and Marv should have killed them. Regardless, both Home Alone and Home Alone 2 are considered classics that fans look forward to seeing every year. The critics may not have loved it, but the audiences did and they still do.
6. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Every show from Looney Tunes to The Flintstones has done its take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and several actors from Jim Carrey to Albert Finney have taken their own spins on Ebeneezer Scrooge. And of course, the Muppets had to get in on that action, which they did in 1992.
A marketing stunt for sure, but a pretty entertaining one. Even as animal puppets the famous characters tug on our heartstrings, particularly Robin the Frog as Tiny Tim. The film also has memorable, fun, and heartwarming music that is sure to lift your holiday spirits. It’s not the greatest version of A Christmas Carol (that title belongs to the 1951 film with Alastair Sim), but it’s a very fun one with Sir Michael Caine giving an excellent take on Ebeneezer Scrooge.
5. The Polar Express (2004)
While Robert Zemeckis’ motion-capture animated film was successful at the box office, it received mixed reviews, with only 56% of critics rating it positively. For some, the unique animation was a little too strange, with some finding the human characters to be creepy-looking. The film is now considered a holiday classic for its fast-paced story, relatable and inspiring characters, and its ability to appeal to the whole family.
3. Elf (2003)
This is one of the holiday movies on the list that was loved by critics and audiences upon its release, and it’s only become more beloved 18 years later.
Will Ferrell is hit-or-miss with many performances, but he shines here as Buddy, a human who was raised by elves who goes to New York to meet his biological father who isn’t initially keen to have him in his life. Through his quirkiness and cheerful demeanor, Buddy gives off a sense of warmth and love that brings out the best in those who meet him. And the audience feels that warmth as they watch his escapades throughout the film. People can say what they want about Ferrell, but he shines in this beloved Christmas comedy.
3. Scrooged (1988)
Another take on the Dickens classic this film by the late Richard Donner stars Bill Murray as a mean-spirited TV executive who is visited by a succession of ghosts who try to help him change his ways and get his Christmas spirit back. When this film came out, critics felt it was too crude and mean-spirited. And yet the film still finds itself to this day on many lists for favorite Christmas films. Scrooge is one of the more unconventional holiday movies, and it’s one that seems to always get its viewers in a festive mood, particularly when “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” is played at the end.
2. A Christmas Story (1983)
It’s amazing how a low-budget film about a boy wanting a Red Ryder BB Gun can make for such a compelling story that remains one of the most beloved holiday movies of all time 40 years after its release. A Christmas Story is one of the most quotable Christmas movies of all time with several memorable moments such as Flick getting his tongue stuck to a flagpole and Ralphie’s disappointing encounter with Santa. The film appeals to the whole family, and it is known to be a major nostalgia piece for kids who grew up in the 1980s.
1. It’s A Wonderful Life (1947)
When Christmas time rolls around and you flip through the channels, there’s a good chance that It’s A Wonderful Life will come on at some point. Its name is synonymous with Christmas movies. This is why you may be surprised to learn that when it was released it failed at the box office and was panned by many critics. But the fine wine rule never applied better to any other film. The film is now considered one of the greatest of all time, highlighting the many sacrifices George Bailey made for those he encountered, and how all of their lives would be in ruins were it not for him putting others ahead of himself. It’s a powerful message that helping others is what makes for a wonderful life.
So there it is. These are the holiday movies and Christmas movies that keep getting better with age. Do you agree with this list? What holiday movies do you think have aged like fine wine? Let us know in the comments.